Oxford council to replace HPL rain screen on Hockmore Tower

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Oxford City Council has decided to remove and replace the HPL rain screen on Hockmore Tower after the government confirmed that owners needed to remove cladding containing the rain screen

The decision on Hockmore Tower follows a partial clarification from the government about the use of cladding on tower blocks.

Immediately after the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, on 14 June 2017, Oxford City Council committed to remove the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) rain screen that surrounded Evenlode and Windrush towers in Blackbird Leys. ACM was the type of rain screen used in Grenfell Tower.

This was completed in June 2018. However, in May it emerged that a cladding system featuring a High-Pressure Laminate (HPL) rain screen and combustible insulation had failed a fire safety test carried out by a private company.

The government has still not yet carried out its own test on HPL rain screens – but it has confirmed for the first time that the owners of tower blocks needed to remove cladding consisting of HPL rain screens and combustible insulation.

While the insulation on Hockmore Tower is non-combustible Rockwool, the new government guidance changes the interpretation of building regulations and Oxford City Council has taken the decision to remove and replace the building’s HPL rain screen.

The HPL rain screen – known as Trespa FR (Fire Resistant) – covers just 40% of Hockmore Tower’s façade. The remaining façade is covered by sheet aluminium, which is the safest type of rain screen on the market.

A small amount of HPL rain screen will also be removed from Evenlode and Windrush tower blocks in Blackbird Leys. The rain screen covers only the balcony panels – less than 10% of each building’s façade.

Oxford City Council will replace the HPL rain screen in all cases with sheet aluminium.

The City Council’s Cabinet agreed to allocate £1.5m to complete the five tower block refurbishment project, which includes the cost of the further fire safety works.

The City Council will seek to recoup the estimated £1m cost of HPL replacement on Hockmore from the government.

Councillor Mike Rowley, Oxford City Council cabinet member for affordable housing, said: “From the outset, Oxford City Council has put the safety of our tenants and residents first. We will not compromise on safety standards.

“We have gone above and beyond legal requirements at every stage to ensure an enhanced level of fire safety for the families living in our five tower blocks.

“Now that the government has provided greater clarity on its requirements for tower blocks, we are acting quickly to remove and replace the cladding on Hockmore Tower.”

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